Thursday, July 11, 2019

(230) THE EARLY CHURCH: The Apostles Go Out to Teach All Nations

AMDG

The original 12 apostles including Judas (bottom row betraying Our Lord with a kiss 
by his free will).  He was replaced by St. Matthias (right corner).  St. Paul, often 
called the Apostle of the Gentiles, is also included here, giving a total of 14 in this 
illustrationIt was a motley crew of tough rustic men and fishermen that our Lord 
chose, taught and formed for three years at campfires and walking all over Galilee 
and Judea.  Only St. Matthew, a former tax collector, and Judas, a thief, were out of 
place.  Although the original apostles had the best teacher of all time, they still didn’t 
understand much of our Lord’s teaching until they were filled with the Holy Spirit at 
the first Confirmation on Pentecost.  By virtue of our Baptism and Confirmation, we 
are also called and sent to be apostles in the New Evangelization by prayer and example 
(as fearless witnesses with our lives), by word and deed.   We must continue the work of 
the first apostles and should also be ready to accept persecution (be it direct or indirect, 
subtle or blatant……..ridicule, discrimination, verbal attacks, calumny, false accusations, 
being bad mouthed, loss of job or promotion for being politically incorrect, jail, even 
death).  The New Evangelization is critical today since our Society is becoming more and 
more secularized (without God) as even some of our loved ones are drifting away.  
Secularization includes not only opposition to even the mention of God for the sake of 
“political correctness”, but also indifference to His presence (“He might exist but I don’t 
care”) and living like He does not exist.  Secularism is really functional atheism.

        At the Ascension Christ gave the apostles their 
commission to teach all nations.  However, they were 
apprehensive, afraid, and unsure of themselves.  They still 
did not understand much of what the Lord had taught them.  
Thus they kept a low profile, cooped up in the upper room 
in a prayerful ten day retreat, preparing themselves 
spiritually in wait for the Holy Spirit.  Pentecost changed 
all that!  Our Lord’s teaching became clear to them and it 
all made sense! They were on fire for the Lord.  Filled with 
the Holy Spirit, the apostles immediately went out to spread 
the good news with great zeal.  They felt compelled to share 
what they learned from Jesus and be His instruments to 
change the world.

Although concentrating on Judea until the year 42, the apostles eventually spread out across the known world.  It is not well documented where each apostle went, but there are legends and tradition…….passed down in the local churches, at meals, camp fires, and living rooms where friends and family gather.  Today story telling and conversation are becoming lost arts in the age of television, computers, and i-phones.

 

St. Andrew, brother of St. Peter, may have covered Asia Minor, Armenia, Romania, and Slavic countries such as the Ukraine.  Some of his relics were brought to Scotland and he became its patron saint.  St. James the Greater, brother of St. John, preached in Spain where he is buried.  St. Philip went to Samaria and Asia Minor.   St. Bartholomew (Nathaniel) worked in Turkey, Armenia, Persia, and India.  St. Thomas is associated with southern India where many Christians venerate him.  He probably reached Turkey and possibly Indonesia as well.  St. Matthew preached to the Jews in Palestine and wrote a Gospel directed to them.  St. James the Lesser evangelized in Egypt and Syria.  St. Jude Thaddeus preached the Gospel in Samaria, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Libya.  St. Simon the Zealot preached in the Middle East, Iran, and Ethiopia.  St. Matthias planted the faith in Armenia, Turkey and Ethiopia.  

St. John the Apostle wrote the fourth Gospel which is the most theological of the four, three epistles, and finally the Book of Revelation on the island of Patmos.  He took care of Mary in Ephesus, Turkey while evangelizing in the area.  He was the last apostle to die in 98 A.D. (https://www.catholicireland.net/after-pentecost-what-happened-the-twelve/).

  
From the cross before dying, Christ gave His dearest mother to us as our mother in the care of St. John.  The mystic of the 19th Century, Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich (1784-1824), revealed hidden details in the life of Christ in her book and also the exact location of Mary’s house in Ephesus in present day Turkey.   Apparently, St. John used Ephesus as his base.  It is believed that St. John took Mary to Jerusalem for a council of the Church and that’s where the dormition and Assumption of Mary took place.  According the Quran, Mary is the most perfect woman that God ever created.  Thus  Muslims revere Mary and visit her house in great numbers.  

The apostles were so convinced of Christ’s teachings and His resurrection, to which they are witnesses, that they were willing to face any obstacle, face scourging, and even die for the faith.  All the apostles were martyred except St. John, who was banished to the Greek island of Patmos after miraculously surviving immersion in boiling oil.  All of this gives greater credence to what they taught since they had nothing to gain and everything to lose materially.
   
Early Trials in Jerusalem. In the name of Christ the apostles healed the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits (Acts 5).  In Acts 10 Peter restored Tabitha to life.  These works or signs gave credence to their teaching.  Acts 5 also describes how the apostles were imprisoned, but that night were freed by an angel, who ordered them to go back and preach in the temple area.  Again they were seized and brought to the Sanhedrin.  

      In defense Peter said:  “We must obey God rather than men”.  But a Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people……said to them, "Fellow Israelites, be careful what you are about to do to these men……So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself.  But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God." They were persuaded by him.  After recalling the apostles, they had them flogged, ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus…….So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.  And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Messiah, Jesus.  Nothing could stop them.

The Church grew rapidly.  The apostles were unable to both preach and serve the material needs of the people without neglecting their prayer life.  Thus they delegated the charitable works to others as St. Stephen, ordaining them by praying and laying hands over them.  This was the beginning of an organizational structure under the overall leadership of St. Peter (Acts 6).
  
                              The bronze statue of St. Peter in his basilica in Vatican City.  
                              His toe is worn down by so many people kissing it.

St. Peter. Christ Himself ordained Peter (and implicitly his 265 successors) as His vicar on earth, the first Pope when He said: “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18-19).  Accordingly, the other apostles and new Christians deferred to him as the head of the Church as described in Acts (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Peter  and http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12260a.htm).

Under the leadership of St. Peter and guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church evangelized non-Jews and did not require Christians to observe old Jewish norms and laws as to food, circumcision, etc. since gentiles also received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10, 11,  & 11).  Two epistles are attributed to St. Peter.  He had considerable influence on the Gospel of Mark since the evangelist accompanied him in many of his apostolic endeavors.

St. Peter went on a preaching tour of Asia Minor.  He taught in Rome and took charge as Bishop there before being martyred under Nero on June 29 in the year 67.  He spent nine months chained to a column in a filthy dungeon.  According to tradition he was fleeing Rome during a violent persecution.  Outside the city Peter confronted the risen Christ who was walking toward Rome.  Peter asked the Lord: “Quo Vadis?” (Where are you going?).  Jesus answered:  "I am going to Rome to be crucified again".  This gave Peter the courage to return and continue His mission there.   The Polish writer Henryk Sienkiewicz authored the novel “Quo Vadis” which won the 1905 Nobel Prize for Literature.  It was made into a movie which was nominated for eight academy awards in 1951.  It is available on Amazon.com and probably Netflix and video stores.

                    His statue in front of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.

St. Paul, originally a well educated Pharisee and a zealous persecutor of Christians who oversaw the martyrdom of St. Stephen (Acts 7), was converted by Christ Himself on the Road to Damascus (Acts 9).  The energy and zeal of St. Paul was a great stimulus to the Church as described in much of the Acts of the Apostles where he is very prominent.  Since St. Luke accompanied him, the evangelist was an eye witness to much of what St. Paul  did and recorded it in the Acts of the Apostles.  Thus St. Paul is better documented than all of the saints of the first 15 centuries after Christ.  The great majority of the Epistles are attributed to St. Paul.  They are letters to Christian groups after teaching them and moving on.  He is known as the apostle of the gentiles, preaching through much of the Roman Empire.     


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